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  • Fr. Gustavo

Of atoms, waves... and faith.


Strontium Atomic Clock at NIST
A strontium atomic clock will keep accurate time for the next 5 billion years.

“How magnificent are your works, O God!” (Psalm 92:5)


One of the pillars of the Judeo-Christian faith is that God intervenes in the affairs of humanity. God is not the proverbial watchmaker nor the absent landlord.


The story of Christmas to be in fact “Christmas” is based on God entering human story – once again – this time in the person of Jesus, born out of God’s eternal and unquenchable love for us.


Do I mean that God is a micro-manager that is concerned about what you are going to have for dinner or if surgery is going to be successful? Is God concerned about the larger issues of justice and the environment? Is God concerned about torture, abuse of power and unbridled greed? The short answer is a definitive “Yes.”


The long answer is that while God is absolutely concerned about human affairs, in creation God gifted humankind with liberty and free choice -- including the option to turn the back to God. How can this be, you may ask? How is it possible to have absolute sovereignty and absolute freedom?


I know that to our rationalistic and Newtonian frame of mind such proposition is mutually exclusive. However, let me take a little detour, and you will see, what Christians believe is not so far-fetched. In fact, these apparent contradictions are the bread and butter of contemporary science. So, let’s go back to the classroom!


Is light a wave or a particle? Is an electric current just a bunch of electrons running from one end of the battery to the other, very much like water in a pipe? Do atoms look like mini-solar systems with super-tiny particles orbiting like a mini-solar system?


Contemporary science a.k.a. quantum science tells us that in fact light is both(!) a particle and yet it acts as a wave. And to boot, all particles, at the same time even the tiniest also behave as waves. Quantum science posits that at the most fundamental level we cannot even define the position of any particle – or even if it were to be possible – to look into a tiny electron circling the atom, very much like the Moon circles the Earth.


Yes. This is the brave new world of quantum mechanics and physics. And it is closer to your life that you could ever have imagined. To wit – the ubiquitous GPS in your watch or phone, lasers, or the life-saving tools of modern medicine, like MRI scanners and the Gamma Knife.


What am I trying to say? That even if our understanding of physics, chemistry and other sciences cannot be bound into a box where we know all the unknowns and where we can know what we can’t even imagine, how much God “from whom all blessings flow” can be bound into the box of theology? Or the human mind?


I can’t imagine anyone refusing emergency life-saving treatment before going getting a PhD in physics to understand how the treatment works. No; it doesn’t mean that to understand God and God’s ways we need to check out our brains before entering church.

It is simply accepting that even if we do not understand all and everything, what we do know is a good working hypothesis to begin a journey of discovery in the heart of God. No more no less that what every student or scholar does before entering a lab.


But here is the thing. If indeed God is God, for that is the bottom line, then “God loves you” is more than a sentimental and trite saying. If God created you and if God still is intent in bringing you to be in close fellowship but you cannot accept such reality because it escapes your understanding, you’ll be missing the greatest gift ever made to you. Don’t let that happen to you!


Fr. Gustavo

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